The Ambiguity of Pushing ‘Up’ and ‘Back’

Planning things with everyone can be complicated. Not only must everyone be present on the same day and at the same time, but everyone must understand the language used for actual planning.

Let’s have a meeting on the 11th at noon.

Hmm, it worked for me last month but it’s not working for me this month. Can we move it up an hour?

In fact, it would be better for me if we took a week back and stayed at noon.

No, I also need it to go up an hour that week.

Oh, turns out that’s even better for me. Let’s do that then.

So just when do these people meet? Is it the 4th or the 18th? And do they meet at 11 o’clock or at 1 o’clock? Obviously they will appear at different times on different days, all because of two little adverbs: upward And backside.

replace 59c2960017c94

“Let’s pin it here.”

When used to talk about schedules, they become contrasting words, temporarily abandoning their usual counterpart, down And front (or go out). The odd partnership can be part of the confusion, as each word has its own antonym characteristics.

What does it mean if we move a meeting up an hour? If the phrase makes you picture your plan, with mornings at the top and evenings at the bottom, you probably understand up an hour means “an hour before.” So, for a meeting that usually takes place at noon, the one-hour meeting would take place at 11 a.m. But if you think about upward as a long distance, you can understand up an hour means “an hour later” – i.e. 1pm

See more:  When Words Stray from Their Roots

And what if we move or push a meeting come back a week? Most people assume the meeting is a week later than originally scheduled—backsidealike upward, is a long distance. (But when we “go back in time”, we’ll arrive at an earlier point in time, so it’s forgivable to think come back a week means sooner rather than later?)

Of course, the metaphor itself is problematic. We are talking about time with the words distance and direction. No wonder it becomes confusing.

The surest way we can think of to prevent scheduling mishaps is to be clear: use earlier (or earlier) And Later. Or even actual numbers. (Just do your best to be on time.)

Categories: Usage Notes

Leave a Comment